Digital Signage for Small Businesses

About six years ago we decided to experiment with digital signage at Bob’s Market.  However, at the time, professional digital signage solutions were way out of our price range.  At $1,000+ to outfit each store, we needed a cheaper solution.

Initially, I went with large digital picture frames that we displayed PowerPoint slides on saved as JPEG files.  These worked well, but poor build quality (one actually had loose screws rattling around in it) caused the frames to fail about a year later.  For the next few years we have used TVs with built-in DVD players. 

This system has worked well because we could integrate video into the screens, and updating the information was as simple as creating a new DVD and sending it to the store managers.  However, one issue has been the reliability of the DVD players.  In the hot, dusty garden centers they would wear out quite quickly due to wear on the moving parts.

A few weeks ago I was at my bank, and I noticed they had installed a large TV to use as digital signage.  Something special about this sign was that it was pulling in live data from the internet like the weather forecast, tweets, etc.  I asked to take a look behind their TV, and I was greeted by a small Android box.  This led to a Google search which led to Bizplay.

The Android box driving the screen at our corporate office.

The Android box driving the screen at our corporate office.

Bizplay is a web-based digital signage solution that offers an intuitive UI for designing your content, low monthly prices per screen, and the best part is that it can run in any web browser or via their own Android app.  This eliminates the need for a backend server to host the content and expensive equipment at your stores.  I was able retrofit our existing DVD player-equipped TVs with Android boxes for about $75 each.

For our installation I have three screens at our retail locations and two screens at our corporate headquarters.  We use the screens at our HQ for announcements and also a way to share information with visitors.  This works out great because Bizplay’s basic account supports up to 5 screens.

The user dashboard.

The user dashboard.

If you can use PowerPoint, then you can use Bizplay’s interface.  Individual slides are created and then added to a playlist.  Then playlists are added to channels.  These channels can then be accessed via web browser or added to individual Bizplay player apps loaded on Android boxes.  Slides and playlists can be edited at any time.  This means nearly instantaneous changes can be made (usually within one to two minutes after saving).

The key feature of Bizplay is its ability to pull content from the Internet.  You can embed tweets from Twitter, posts from Facebook, news headlines and weather forecasts with inbuilt tools.  However, where Bizplay shines is its ability to insert any webpage.  Pages can also be cropped like images to show only the information you want.  This has led me to do quite a bit of experimentation.  Embedding our network uptime website at the HQ, animated gif images into slides, and even a live IP camera feed.  Eventually I plan to rig up a moveable IP camera in our greenhouses to show off what is coming soon at our stores.

Overall Bizplay is a great option for digital signage.  It is relatively cheap to deploy and operate compared to other systems.  Also, its ability to be updated with live information from the Internet allows us to share more up to date content and engage with customers more.